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The Journal of African Business Issue 7

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Welcome to The Journal of African Business, a unique guide to business and investment in Africa. Since the inaugural issue was published as an annual in 2020, the quarterly format has been adopted, giving our team more opportunities to bring to readers up-to-date information and opinions and offer our clients increased exposure at specific times of the year. We cover a broad range of topics, ranging from energy and mining to tourism and skills development. A wide-ranging interview in this issue with a visionary entrepreneur gives a welcome insight into how the private sector can be deployed to solve issues that go to the heart of social problems, in this instance, affordable housing. Related to urban development is the article that lays out the vision of one of the continent’s great cities to create a smarter city. Special Economic Zones have been in Africa since 1970 but there has been a great deal of new thinking about the role that these zones can play in bolstering economic growth and promoting exports. An article explores the chief motivations for the growth of this particular policy intervention and notes that more zones and organisations representing these zones are aiming to work together, not only on a continental level but through the United Nations as well. Executive education can boost the earnings of graduates of Master of Business Administration courses, but can those post-graduate programmes also respond to and equip students with the tools to tackle African challenges? The importance of being properly covered by insurance for extreme weather conditions is the subject of two case studies by the African Risk Capacity Limited, a financial affiliate of the African Risk Capacity Group, a specialised agency of the African Union. And much more... Global African Network is a proudly African company which has been producing region-specific business and investment guides since 2004.


SOLAR PANEL MANUFACTURING A WINNING TEAM IS PRODUCING CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY For René Salmon’s women-only team of solar panel assemblers at Ener-G-Africa, a focus on detail and working as a team is paying off. WHEN DID YOU START WORK WITH ENER-G-AFRICA? I started working freelance at EGA in November 2021. DID YOU START AS THE MANAGER OR DID YOU WORK YOUR WAY UP? I was first the production manager, then became the Solar Assembly Plant manager in April 2022. We started training in July 2022, after the completion of the plant installations of all the machines. By this time, I had been with EGA for eight months. We only started manufacturing panels in late November 2022. WHAT QUALIFICATIONS AND WORK EXPERIENCE DID YOU HAVE BEFORE YOU CAME TO EGA? Before coming to EGA, I worked at Denel (Swartklip) in the Ammunition Plant as an operator and cartridge filler. From there, I enrolled in the military and I was there for 19 years. I worked really hard at the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and finished top of my class. I went on to reach the rank of captain and that journey taught me to believe in my dreams and work hard. HOW MUCH TRAINING IS PROVIDED TO NEW AND EXISTING STAFF? Our department understands the importance of ongoing training and refresher courses. In short, training never really stops. WHAT CHARACTERISTICS DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A NEW STAFF MEMBER? From my experience, ladies can work very neatly. They pay a lot of attention to detail and are able to perform very delicate work. These are exactly the characteristics needed in this environment. It was also the company’s vision to have the world’s first all-female Solar Assembly Plant. WHAT ARE THE DIFFICULT PARTS OF THE JOBS THAT ARE DONE AT THE FACTORY? The most difficult part of the job is the final lay-up and buffing of the solar panel. At this stage the wafers, the part of the solar panel where the energy is stored, are very delicate and vulnerable to breakages or chips because they have not yet been laminated. Burring through the back sheet with a rotary hand tool is also one of the more delicate jobs. E ARE THERE OPPORTUNITIES FOR STAFF TO MOVE “UP” ALONG THE ASSEMBLY LINE? There is always room for improvement and the energy sector is such a dynamic field to work in. New technology is always being developed at EGA and as part of growing we are expanding our solar manufacturing plant, so new opportunities always exist. EGA also has the policy of offering any new positions internally before recruiting from the outside. HOW DO YOU RECRUIT STAFF FOR THE SOLAR PANEL PRODUCTION LINE? Initially, the company recruited five ladies. Today the five of us provide most of the training to the new recruits. When there are available positions, we communicate those to the ladies already employed to introduce the company to other ladies from underprivileged backgrounds. Part of the interview process is that the recruits spend an entire day at the factory: first shadowing the employees and then performing what they observed. We select the individuals who show the most promise. Thus far we have been very successful in recruiting new employees this way. The emphasis is on women empowerment. WHAT IS IT LIKE WORKING WITH A WOMEN-ONLY TEAM? Every day brings its own challenges, but the ladies that I am working with are really a winning team. They simply refuse to give up! People always look at the Solar Plant and tell me how talented I am and how much I have achieved. I like to correct them and tell them that I would never be able to do it alone. It really takes teamwork and communication. I wish you could see the first 20-watt panel we made. I can honestly say that it was the ugliest panel we ever made. It was atrocious, but we were so proud of it… and it worked, it yielded electricity! We have battle scars from soldering irons but looking back it was all worth it and so much fun, because we learned from the experience. I don’t think the fact that we are an all-ladies team ever occurred to me until people started talking about it. I think females can do just as much, if not more than males can do and I always try to preach the genderequality gospel to my team. The truth is: there are just some things that females excel at and luckily for me, I have managed to make it my daily bread. 24

SOLAR PANELS SUSTAINABILITY THROUGH INNOVATION Ener-G-Africa is bringing affordable power to Africa. Ener-G-Africa (EGA) is a multi-faceted company that is tackling the challenges of climate change through research, development and the manufacturing of clean energy products, enriching the lives of people across the African continent. SOLAR PANELS FOR AFRICA In February 2023 Sub-Saharan Africa gained its second solar-panel assembly plant when Ener-G-Africa launched its .5-million, 800m 2 plant in Cape Town. The focus is on making smaller solar panels to serve low-income households across Sub-Saharan Africa. The panels can be used with advanced biomass stoves as well as for charging lights, phones and other small appliances. The 20W panels sell for each and could be transformative for a microbusiness. A farmer needing to know whether it is worth his while to cycle to market with his crop might need to charge his phone, a shopkeeper off the grid can keep track of her stock with a single lamp. In addition to domestic South African sales, the panels are distributed to Malawi, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. EGA will increase the size of the plant as demand rises. The plant has a maximum capacity of 15MW per annum, has created 53 jobs and operates 24 hours a day, five days a week. All of the workers at the plant are women. And that is not the only reason the plant is unique. The focus on small panels also sets it apart. “Small panels are generally more time-consuming and difficult to make than larger panels,” says Plant Manager René Salmon. “As a result, they are more expensive per watt to make than a larger panel. However, high quality and low price are our priorities for a customer base that usually only has access to high-price, low-quality panels,” she adds. Aluminium for the frames is purchased locally, as well as the wiring, junction boxes, adhesives and packaging. South Africa is the most technologically capable country on the continent with readily available skills that are necessary to run the plant. Being located in Cape Town means EGA also has access to a port, which is a logistical advantage for both raw material imports and finished product exports. Typically, the major solar-panel manufacturers will produce bigger panels targeted at utility-scale projects and larger business and residential installations. Says Andre Moolman, CEO of EGA: “Small solar panels intended for Africa are invariably made at smaller facilities and don’t come with any reputable certifications, which has led to Africa being flooded with inconsistent and inferior panels. This is the first and only small solar panel plant in the world certified by TUV Rheinland.” THE COMPANY Established in Malawi in 2017, EGA was founded as a solar wholesale company after recognising that the demand for quality sustainable energy products outpaced supplies in the country. In 2018, it added advanced biomass stoves distribution and embarked on its first rural stove implementation programme in partnership with C-Quest Capital (CQC) to serve previously unserviceable markets through carbon-based financing. Since 2017, EGA has created more than 500 jobs and manufactured more than four-million cleaner, healthier, more efficient cookstoves for rural and peri-urban African households across 12 countries. It has established two manufacturing facilities, doubling its output – one in Lilongwe, Malawi, and the second in Cape Town, South Africa, where the company is now headquartered. OTHER PRODUCTS The company also has offices in Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. EGA’s capabilities include stove components, biomass fuels, advanced biomass stoves, solar panels, metal working and precision tooling. The company currently manufactures or assembles stove components for TLC-CQC Rocket Stoves, solar panels, jet flame kits and pellet and wood cookstoves. There are also plans for Cape Town to manufacture and sell clean and efficient advanced biomass stoves through an additional manufacturing facility in the near future. For more information, visit 25

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